Much has changed, but much has remained the same, in the arena of green building law mandates since March 18,2002, when the city of Normal, Illinois enacted Ordinance 4825, the first ever mandatory green building law, requiring LEED certification in the Central Business District for public or private new construction of over 7,500 square feet.

Many thought green building mandates would spread across the county. But today, with more than 89,000 local governments across the U.S., there are less than 200 green building mandates that apply to ‘purely’ private building. 

Among the most progressive and unique of those green building laws is the Saint Paul sustainable building policy applicable to government building and private construction receiving public money. Saint Paul has the audacious goal of wanting “to be the most livable city in the United States.”

First effective in 2004 and modified several times, today the Saint Paul law applies to any new construction project receiving more than $200,000 in City or other governmental funding programs. The developer must choose for the project one of the following rating systems and levels with which to minimally comply:

Commercial Projects: LEED New Construction, Silver certified; or Green Globes, 2 globes awarded; or State Guidelines Building Benchmarking and Beyond (B3) compliant; or Saint Paul Port Authority Green Design Review (as applicable).

Residential Projects: LEED for Homes or LEED NC, Silver certified; or Minnesota Green Star, Silver awarded; or Green Communities, Minnesota Overlay compliant.

The last 6 commercial projects subject to the law each selected to comply with the B3 Guidelines.

The B3 Guidelines for both new buildings and major renovations: Exceed the state energy code by at least 30 percent, focus on achieving the lowest possible lifetime costs, encourage continual energy conservation improvements, include air quality and lighting standards, create and maintain a healthy environment, facilitate productivity improvements, and specify ways to reduce material costs.

To achieve these goals, the B3 Guidelines build on previous local and national efforts. The guidelines are designed to be clear and able to be used without consultants. They are designed to be compatible with LEED. Most importantly, the guidelines set up a process that will eventually lead to an accounting of the actual costs and benefits of sustainable building design. The State has further clarified the scope of the guidelines to focus on office and higher education classroom facilities, although the guidelines are suitable for most other building types.

B3 may not have LEED’s national cachet or the marketing power of a LEED seal mounted on a front door, but it is an efficacious sustainable building tool that is popular with the environmental industrial complex and worthy of your review.

Nationally consensus appears to be that a building code or the like that goes far beyond life safety is going too far and mandatory green building codes are not generally desirable. As damming as that is, the public appears willing to accept both government building and the beneficiaries of public money be required to comply with a voluntary green building rating system.